As the tragedy in Japan has unfolded over the past few days, I've had to learn a whole new lexicon of German words. For example, the words for Nuclear Power Plant are “das Kernkraftwerk,” “das Atomkraftwerk,” or their abbreviations “AKW,” or “KKW.” The word for nuclear meltdown is “die Kernschmelze.”
Last year, the German government announced that it would extend the life of its oldest nuclear facilities despite opposition from the Green Party. However, in the wake of the Japanese tragedy, Germany has had to reconsider its nuclear policy. Chancellor Merkel announced yesterday that seven of its oldest nuclear plants would be closed down temporarily for three months to evaluate safety and one plant would be closed permanently. Mrs. Merkel also said that Germany would accelerate its renewable energy program.
As is often the case, it takes a tragedy to motivate governments to do something to improve the safety of its citizens. It seems governments never seem to be proactive but reactive. In the case of Japan, it did everything humanly possible to mitigate the dangers of a nuclear accident. Yet, a natural disaster can lay waste to the best made plans. I was reminded once more of just how ruthless Mother Nature can be. Some disasters are so far-reaching that it’s hard to prepare for them. I believe that no matter how prepared we are, when a calamity of massive proportions enters the picture, all bets are off. In the case of nuclear power, we need to answer the question: are the dangers worth risk?